MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming Review

ccokeman - 2012-08-31 18:00:33 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: June 9, 2013
Price: $189

MSI Z87-GD65 Introduction:

Having just looked at the performance delivered by the Intel DZ87KLT-75 in the Intel Core i7 4770K launch article, it's going to be interesting to see what the aftermarket has brought to the table that trumps what we can get directly out of Intel's house. MSI Gaming series motherboard fit comfortably in the middle of the product stack as far as pricing and feature set go. However, the feature set is decidedly not low end but quite top shelf. MSI's Z87-GD65 is a full featured motherboard built around Intel's Z87 PCH and LGA socket 1150 Core series processors. The Z87-GD65 features support for multiple graphics solutions, is equipped with a Realtek ALC 1150 sound solution featuring a dedicated headphone amp, Killer E2200 network solution, and a great cooling package.

Priced at $189, it offers a lot for the money but the key is how well does it perform? A board can look great from a distance, or even up close, and still not have the ability to impress as far as performance metrics are concerned. Let's take the Z87-GD 65 for a spin to see if it can deliver performance to go along with the looks.

MSI Z87-GD65 Closer Look:

What we get from MSI in terms of packaging is a bold new look that seeks to grab the attention of the consumer with bold black and red graphics. On the front panel is a large tribal-style dragon emblem with the name of the motherboard "Z87-GD65 Gaming," that it supports 4th generation Intel Core series processors, and features the Intel Z87 chipset as well as a Killer Network E2200 built-in NIC. The large red Gaming series shield is added eye candy. The gold emblem at the top of the package puts the three-year MSI warranty out front so you know going into the purchase the warranty period available to you should you have something go wrong. The back side follows the front theme but illustrates the added value feature set included on the Z87-GD65 Gaming. You get Audio Boost that uses gold contacts on the connection points, a headphone amplifier, and EMI shielding along with high quality audio caps. Creative Labs software is used to enhance the experience, while the Killer E2200 NIC and software package can tailor your Internet usage to the scenario. Military Class IV component selection is used and meets MIL-STD-810G. Multi GPU support is included so you do not have to choose to run a single GPU, as both CrossfireX and SLI are supported, and last but not least a PS/2 port is included.







Internally the MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming sits in the top section of the box so it is the first item that comes into view for added visual excitement. Underneath in two sections are the supplied accessories, both hardware and documentation portions are included there. The documentation includes a user guide, sales brochure, software user guide, and the driver/utility disk. A door hanger is included so you can warn the family to stay out when you are busy "Gaming" while the Gaming series case badge is fairly substantial so you can show your allegiance. The hardware consists of two pairs of SATA 6Gbps cables with 90 degree ends, the I/O shield, SLI bridge connection, V-Check adapters, and the M-Connections that really make putting the front panel wiring in place so much easier.




Just looking at the feature set I am intrigued with what MSI is bringing to the table with this new series of motherboards.

MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming Closer Look:

MSI's Z87-GD65 Gaming motherboard is based around the Intel Z87 chipset for use with LGA socket 1150 Fourth Generation Core series processors from Intel including the Core i7 4770K. This black and red beauty features a standard layout with plenty of room on the board for supporting parts from mild to wild. The dragon design seen on the packaging carries through to the heat sink package. As far as functionality you get DRAM support up to 3000MHz, better than standard audio and networking, Multi GPU support, and more. The front of the board is covered with silk screened emblems to let you know what's included if you raced straight past the box and documentation. The back of the board is barren but looking closer we see that the cooling package is held in place with spring loaded screws. The CPU socket and retention hardware are from Lotes and have a black chrome finish that fits the theme of the board. As part of MSI's Military Class IV package, the PCB features a new construction method that seeks to limit EMI radiation and improves humidity and temperature tolerances.













From left to right on the I/O panel are a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 "Gaming" port using gold contacts, a Clear CMOS button, Coaxial and Optical S/PDIF outputs, two of the three display outputs, the Killer E2200-controlled Gigabit LAN port, four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 1.4 port that supports up to 4K resolutions, and the Realtek ALC 1150-powered 7.1 HD audio jacks that have been gold plated. All of the outputs on the board feature ESD protection as part of MSI's Military Class essentials package. Expansion capabilities include three x16 PCIe slots that support multi GPU solutions including up to 2-Way SLI, 3-Way CrossfireX, and Lucid Logix Switchable graphics technology. The slots can run in x16, x8, x8 with a pair of cards or x8, x4, x4 with all three populated. Additionally there are a total of four x1 PCIe 2.0 slots for other peripherals. In front of the bottom x1 slot surrounded by the capacitors and headphone amplifier for the audio solution is the isolating cover for the Realteak ALC 1150 IC. Taking advantage of Intel's Rapid Storage Technologies is made easier with the onboard mounting for an mSATA SSD right above the top x16 PCIe slot.




Along the bottom edge of the PCB are some interesting items on top of the standards for the form factor. From the left is the front panel audio header, the onboard power and reset buttons, the OC Genie4 button for one touch overclocking featuring multiple levels, OC Genie Mode switch to choose between the Gaming mode or Turbo modes of operation, TPM header, GO2BIOS button that functions as the gateway to the BIOS when Fastboot is enabled, debug LED, serial port connection, three front panel USB 2.0 headers (one of which supports MSI Supercharger), one of the five 4-pin fan headers, and the front panel connection.



SATA connectivity consists of six SATA 6Gbps ports supplied natively off the Intel Z87 PCH and a pair supplied by an ASMedia 1061 controller. The Intel ports support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10, as well as Intel Smart Response, Rapid Start, and Smart Connect Technologies. If an mSATA drive is used you do lose the functionality of SATA Port 6. Right next to the drive connectivity is a front panel USB 3.0 header that adds another pair of ports for a total of six on board. Moving up the PCB we get to the 24-pin ATX main power connection. On each side are points of interest. On the left is the Dual BIOS switch that allows you to switch the BIOS should you corrupt one of the two Winbond 64MB ICs. To the left is a staple of MSI's lineup, the V-Check points, used to check voltages with a multimeter rather than with software-based tools and utilities.




A quartet of DRAM slots support up to 32GB of DDR3 memory at speeds of up to 3000MHz (OC) in a dual channel configuration. Intel XMP Profiles are supported to ease memory setup issues. MSI has adopted the use of a T-Topology with the traces feeding the DIMM slots to help improve memory overclocking margins and stability at the edge; a feature I saw last on ASUS' Z77 lineup. How it affects the memory overclocking is yet to be seen with this iteration from MSI.



Around the top of the PCB is where you will find more of the onboard fan headers, the top of the VRM cooling solution, and the 8-pin auxiliary CPU power connection.



The MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming motherboard is built around the ability to use Intel's Fourth Generation Core series processors like the Core i7 4770K I will be using to put this board through its paces. This processor fits into an LGA 1150 socket and is not backwards compatible with processors in the Second or Third Generation Core lineup. Around the socket is MSI's Military Class IV VRM circuit utilizing Super Ferrite Chokes, Hi-C Caps, Dark Capacitors, and components that meet MIL-STD-810G or better. With MSI's component selection you get a more efficient, longer lasting design. While the CPU socket design is not backwards compatible, the heat sink mounting pattern is identical to that used with Intel's earlier LGA 115X sockets.


The heat sink package on the MSI Z87-GD65 is robust enough to get the job done while fitting clearly into the design elements of the board, keeping in mind MSI's Gaming Spirit philosophy. The dragon emblem seen on the front panel of the package is repeated throughout the board's heat sinks with the most obvious being on the large two-piece design covering the Z87 PCH. Much less subtle is the integration into the heat pipe connected VRM heat sink.



Looks are not everything as performance is king. However, the new look for MSI's Gaming series is pretty interesting and will hold some visual appeal when viewed through a case window. Coupled with a three-year warranty and MIL spec components we should see some spirited performance.

MSI Z87-GD65 Closer Look:

Every motherboard manufacturer has its own set of software tools that best work with its hardware; MSI is no different in that respect. Included with the Z87-GD65 are the following tools.

Super Charger is used to manage the power supply through the identified high current USB 2.0 port to allow charging your portable electronics such as smartphones, tablets, or multimedia devices. Fast Boot gives you a direct ticket into the BIOS when this option is enabled in the BIOS. Using the GO2BIOS button functions similarly and is needed since the keyboard is inactive when in Fastboot mode. Super RAID is a tool that looks like a front end for access into Intel's Rapid Storage Technologies.














By including the Killer Networks E2200 ethernet connectivity you by default gain access to the Killer Network Management software package. This software package enables the end user the ability to tailor Internet bandwidth by application.



The use of the Realtek ALC 1150 codec brings with it the Realtek HD Audio manager control panel that proves to be fully functional. An added enhancement is the inclusion of the Sound Blaster Cinema Suite. This enables the use of several preset options including Movie, Game, Music, and a Custom profile. Configurable within the profiles are Surround, Crystalizer, Bass Boost, Smart Volume, and Dialog Plus.





MSI Live Update 5 is useful for checking MSI's servers for updates to the installed utilities, BIOS, and drivers. This process can be run automatically or as a manual process. Simply choose what you want to do and start the process.


MSI Z87-GD65 Closer Look:

MSI has come a long way with its Click BIOS, with the latest iteration being installed on this board. Click BIOS 4 is a UEFI BIOS from AMI that is an ACPI 5.0, PnP1.0a, SM BIOS 2.7, and DMI 2.0 multi language ready BIOS. A pair of 64MB Winbond ICs each contain the BIOS. Each BIOS can be accessed via a two position switch that can select from BIOS A or B should you want to use each one differently or just use the redundancy as a fail safe backup. The main BIOS page is where you will navigate from one tab to the next. The GUI provides basic information at the top of the page including CPU temperature, date, time, installed processor, CPU, and DRAM frequency, as well as the installed DRAM capacity.











Settings: The first section is Settings, where you can check the system info under System Status. The Advanced tab is when you manage the IGP settings, enable or disable Intel Rapid Start and Smart Connect Technologies, and setup the power management features. The Boot section is where you manage the boot priority of the installed storage devices. Security is where you can set up an admin password and configure the chassis intrusion settings, while Save and Exit allows for a reset to factory defaults or the acceptance of any system changes.



OC: This section is the area where the performance of the installed hardware can be managed from setting the bclock adjustments; voltages for the CPU, memory, and control circuits; the memory speed and timings; and bclock strap settings, as well as DRAM ratios to pull the most performance out of the installed CPU and memory. This area is fairly robust and the window to the right gives a brief description of the adjust line item. If you will be manually tuning the Z87-GD65 Gaming this is the area you will spend the most time tweaking for performance.





M-Flash is where the user can flash or back up the latest BIOS revisions. Through the course of testing the Z87-GD65 I flashed several of the available BIOS to see how they functioned. Using the M-Flash tool proved to be anti-climactic as it just worked as intended. Put the BIOS file on a flash drive, chose your file, then flash and reboot. Three BIOS flashed and no failures prove to me that the tool works.



OC Profile: This section allows the user to save up to six distinct profiles that can be named individually so you at least remember what each profile was. This way you get easy access without having to reconfigure the BIOS each time you want to change to a more or less aggressive profile. You can save profiles to or from a flash drive for added profile capacity.



Hardware Monitor: This section opens to show configurable fan profiles and controls for the five onboard PWM fan headers. The current voltages supplied by the power supply are registered on the bottom of the window in small charts. CPU and System temperatures are in the upper right of the window on this page.



Board Explorer is a pretty cool feature that shows visually which parts of the PCB are occupied with hardware and highlights them in a bright red. Using a mouse to roll over the Z87-GD65 you get a brief explanation or picture of the items that are installed.



As a UEFI BIOS you get full mouse and keyboard support so that you can freely navigate the menus and sub-menus in Click BIOS 4. Mouse support has improved but the mouse you use may improve or detract from your experience and how easy it is to navigate the BIOS with just the mouse. Using a Mad Catz RAT 3 mouse, the cursor did not want to move while the menus would scroll wildly. Hooking up a few different mice from Razer and Logitech shows that lesser known mice might have support issues while the more popular products provide a better BIOS experience. That being said the BIOS is smooth to work around and is easy to use.

MSI Z87-GD65 Specifications:

CPU (Max Support)
FSB / Hyper Transport Bus
Intel® Z87 Express Chipset
DDR3 Memory
DDR31066/1333/1600*/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000*(*OC) Mhz
Memory Channel
DIMM Slots
Max Memory (GB)
PCI-Ex16 3.0
Gen3 (16,0,0), (8,8,0), (8,4,4)
USB 3.0 ports (Rear)
USB 2.0 ports (Rear)
Audio ports (Rear)
6+Coaxial / Optical SPDIF
VGA Max Share Memory (MB)
Form Factor


MSI Z87-GD65 Features:


All information courtesy of MSI @

MSI Z87-GD65 Testing:

Testing MSI's Z87-GD65 Gaming motherboard will involve running it through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which includes both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications, to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual gameplay, in which we can see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest drivers for each board and  AMD Catalyst 13.6 drivers for the XFX HD 7970. In the past we had locked the clock speed on the processor to eliminate any easily controlled variables due to processor speed. However there is a difference in how each manufacturer handles the CPU default and boost speeds creating opportunity for one board to deliver a higher level of performance. This variable is a point of difference between boards. The majority of users will run the stock settings making this point a valid concern so we are changing up the test methods to capture this difference.

Testing Setup: Socket 1150


Comparison Motherboard:



Overclocked settings:


Getting into the BIOS to overclock the Core i7 4770K was a welcome change after testing the Intel DZ87KLT-75. Not that that board was bad but that there are much better GUIs for the latest UEFI BIOS. Seeing that the maximum stable overclock I could push this Core i7 4770K to was 4.7GHz on the Intel board I was optimistic that on the Z87-GD65 I would be able to see a bit more in terms of raw clock speed. Sadly the chip I have seems to run out of steam at 4.7GHz any way I get there. With the Z87-GD65 I was able to at least boot into the OS at 4.8 still using a maximum of 1.35V to the processor. Any higher on the vcore and the Core i7 4770K would start throttling under load, even with a custom water loop.

Overclocking via MSI's Click BIOS 4 is only one avenue for the enthusiast to grab some extra clock speed and is where most of the time can be spent. To get to 4.7GHz I adjusted just three voltages from the supplied auto settings. First I set both the vcore and ring voltage to override mode and adjusted the voltage up to the level required by my CPU. Then I set the DRAM voltage to 1.65 to meet the requirements for the system memory. Your mileage will vary on the CPU voltage needed due to the variability of the processors capabilities from Intel. It's that simple to reach the overclocking goal for the Z87-GD65. If the story ended there we could say we were happy.

If the Click BIOS 4 is a bit daunting you can use MSI's OC Genie 4 to get a quick and easy overclock with just the push of the OC Genie button on the lower edge of the PCB. OC Genie 4 has a switch that allows the user to switch between Gaming Mode and Turbo Mode at the flip of a switch. Gaming mode is set by default and is a bit conservative with a 100MHz boost over the 3900MHz boost clock speed from Intel but does work and proved stable with no other adjustments in the BIOS. Turbo mode is also conservative at 4200MHz but this equates to free performance just for pushing a button and flipping a switch without having to dig into the BIOS. The reason I am guessing for the conservative clock speeds is that the heat generated by the Haswell core can ramp up quite quickly and keeping the core and voltage low gives the highest success rate for the broadest market. It can't get any easier.

Overclocking the CPU and memory together brings a new dynamic to the table with Haswell and the Core i7 4770K. Memory controller limitations are not a new problem with Intel's latest architectures. The Core i7 3770K had improved memory overclocking abilities by comparison to Sandy Bridge-based chips which were, truth be told, no slouches in that department either. What you get with Haswell is an awesome memory controller that can handle 3000MHz memory on a whim. The problem is that the CPU speed you can run that number at may be as low as the default clock speeds. The rarer processors are the ones that get the best of both worlds. In the case of the CPU I am using for this review it will go as high as the highest clocking set of memory I have will go. This being a set of 2400MHz G.Skill Trident that maxed out at 2500MHz on my 3770K. With this processor 2600MHz was possible with a 4.7GHz clock speed on the CPU core. I can only hope this is more representative of the capabilities of Haswell.





Maximum Core Clock Speed:

Each CPU has been tested for stability at the listed over-clocked speeds. These clock speeds will represent the level of performance shown by the overclocked scores in the testing.




  1. PCMark 7
  2. SiSoft Sandra 2013
  3. Cinebench 11.5
  4. X.264 5.1
  5. AIDA 64 3.00
  6. Crystal Diskmark
  7. ATTO
  8. iPerf
  9. Rightmark Audio Analyzer
  1. 3DMark
  2. Metro: Last Light
  3. DiRT 3

MSI Z87-GD65 Testing:

PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs from laptops to desktops.




















SiSoft Sandra 2013 is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

Overall Score



When you look at the stock speed scoring, the MSI Z87-GD65 does an excellent job of managing the clock speeds upwards to drive a higher level of performance than the Intel board in each of the tests. Overclocking and manually setting the clock speeds puts the pair on more even footing clock for clock.

MSI Z87-GD65 Testing:

Cinebench 11.5 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program, CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.














X.264 Benchmark: This benchmark is used to measure the time it takes to encode a 1080p video file into the x264 format. The default benchmark is used with an average of all four tests on each pass taken as the result.



AIDA64 Extreme Edition 3.0 is a software utility designed to be used for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the Cache and Memory benchmark tool to measure memory performance.




While the margins are not large, the performance of the Z87-GD65 Gaming is going to allow for increased performance in CPU and memory bound applications.

MSI Z87-GD65 Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds of drives by using 4K blocks, 512K blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 1000MB option.

















ATTO 2.47: will be used to measure USB 3.0 performance using an SSD attached to an external USB 3.0 drive dock.



Internal SATA drive performance is close by comparison on both boards. MSI's USB 3.0 performance seems to deliver higher write scores on the external USB 3.0 connected drive.

MSI Z87-GD65 Testing:

LAN performance will be tested via a utility to gauge the performance of the onboard network solutions. The motherboard being tested will be connected via a Gigabit switch to another system with an integrated Gigabit network solution on board.

iPerf: is a small lightweight utility run from the command prompt and can be used to measure both TCP and UDP performance on a network. iPerf is cross platform software and open source. The test is configured to run for 20 seconds with a window size of 256 KB and four simultaneous streams that should be able to saturate the TCP link on a good NIC.














Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.25 is used to test the sound solution on board each motherboard. Nothing beats a good set of ears and headphones but this is a graphic representation of the capabilities of the installed hardware. Sampling mode is 24-bit 44kHz.

Intel DZ87KLT-75
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming
Frequency Response dB
+0.52,+ 0.30
Noise Level dBA
Dynamic Range dBA
Total Harmonic distortion %
Intermodulation distortion +noise
Stereo Crosstalk,db
Intermodulation distortion + noise (Swept Freq) %
Frequency Response (Swept Sine), db


Looking at the LAN testing results, the Intel and Killer network solutions are delivering similar results. The audio results show that the Realtek ALC1150 controlled sound package delivers great results in the audio testing.

MSI Z87-GD65 Testing:

3DMark: The just released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base the ability to make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs to notebooks and Extreme Gaming PCs.













DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.




Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro: Last Light is the followup to the extremely popular game Metro 2033. Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, this game uses the 4A game engine. In this game set a year after the missile strike on the Dark Ones you continue on as Artyom as he digs deeper into the bowels of the Metro.







The gaming results show that MSI's Z87-GD65 Gaming motherboard is up to the challenge of delivering top notch game performance. It sets itself ahead of the Intel Z87 solution in each of the tests, save for the overclocked Metro: Last Light overclocked settings where the GPU is the determining factor on FPS.

MSI Z87-GD65 Conclusion:

After spending some time with the latest from MSI, I found that it has put together a comprehensive package for the gamer and enthusiast looking for a great looking, solid performing motherboard. Right out of the box you get a three-year warranty to keep you comfortable with your purchase. Really though behind the scenes it's the component selection and how well it all is integrated to deliver a product you would be proud to put into your chassis. MSI has been using components that meet or exceed MIL-STD-810G for some time as part of its Military Class build philosophy. Parts such as Super Ferrite Chokes that run at up to 35 degree Celsius lower temperatures, have a 30% higher current handling capacity, and a 20% improvement in power efficiency; Tantalum filled Hi-C Caps that are are up to 93% efficient; and  "Dark Capacitors" that feature Lower ESR and a ten-year lifespan all tied into a PCB with improved temperature and humidity protections as part of the "Military Essentials" package.

MSI's Click BIOS has evolved over the years and is a pretty fluid experience at this point. The Click BIOS is laid out in easy to navigate tabs that allow you to find what you are looking for in short order. Voltage options are granular enough to allow the enthusiast a way to effectively find and apply the best voltage for his or her processor. DRAM timings are robust enough to give the true tweaker enough settings to get lost in. The Overclocking profiles are easy to setup and name. During testing and tweaking this is an invaluable tool for getting back to square 450 without having to manage each step of the process. Just in case you hose up the BIOS, MSI has equipped the Z87-GD65 with a pair of BIOS ROMs that can be accessed with the flip of a switch. Flashing the BIOS was a simple process using M-Flash in the Click BIOS. The only reall challenge I had in the Click BIOS is the use of a RAT 3 gaming mouse that just did not navigate correctly across three different BIOS.

MSI put together a nice audio package on this board with the use of the Realtek ALC 1150 codec enhanced with Creative's Sound Blaster Cinema suite. Called Audio Boost, the sound package includes an OPA1652 headphone amplifier and high end audio capacitors. Listening to games, movies, and music was an improved experience.

Stock performance was impressive across the board when compared to the Intel solution in just about every single test, showing how well the clock speeds are dynamically managed to deliver higher performance metrics. Overclocking is a way to further drive improved performance and the Z87-GD65 is no slouch in this department, able to easily take my Core i7 4770K up to its limits with no problems. As far as the memory/clock speed ratio is concerned, MSI has the board tuning down to allow the end user the ability to get the most out of the installed memory and processor. OC results of 4.7GHz on the CPU cores running the system memory at 2600MHz illustrates that yes, your parts stand a chance at getting to the top of the Gaming charts. If tuning manually is not your style you can always use OC Genie 4 with multiple profiles to step up the performance a bit.

Getting the most out of your games requires having the graphics horsepower to play the latest games. As a gaming centric board the Z87-GD65 supports Multi GPU formats from both NVIDIA and AMD as well as taking advantage of switchable graphics technology using Lucid LogiX Virtu software.

In the end MSI's Z87-GD65 is a board that comes with an expansive feature set that includes all your basics and the extras that set them apart such as the V-Check points, upper end audio, Dual BIOS ROMs, KIller Network package, Military Class IV package, and a three-year warranty. Couple that with good looks that carry the dragon theme through the board, and you have a winning combination at $189.